The NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition is an important document. Educators with an eye on the future who are concerned about engagement and interested in technology integration need to read this report. This blog post will be unique in that it will be more of a study guide to use with the report. We suggest you go to the report, download it as a PDF file to your desktop (completely permissible), and then keep this blog post open as you read the report. Don't see a download option? Just print it as a PDF to your desktop (so you can highlight, underline, and write in the margins).

Who are these guys?

"What is on the five-year horizon for K-12 schools worldwide? Which trends and technologies will drive educational change? What are the challenges that we consider as solvable or difficult to overcome, and how can we strategize effective solutions?" (NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition, page 1). Any time a report comes out that attempts to answer these important questions, readers should be leery. We started at the end to find out who the authors were. We wanted to know if they could have hidden agendas, like profiting from technology use. We were pleasantly surprised. The report called on the collective experience of 56 contributors. Their work was fully transparent and even documented on a public wiki. The contributors represent a global collection of experts from public education. In addition to K-12 educators, there are representatives from colleges and universities, nonprofit think tanks, and the New Media Consortium (NMC, a nonprofit think tank). We noted only two representatives from the commercial technology world and they were from Intel. We found the panel balanced and did not see any conflicts of interest. In short, the report is a true attempt to answer the aforementioned guiding questions without any obvious ulterior agenda! Good job, NMC!

What does the report say?

The panel found two long-term trends for the future of education in the next five years:       “ ... (1) rethinking how schools work in order to bolster student engagement and drive more innovation, as well as (2) shifting to deeper learning approaches, such as project- and challenge-based learning" (page 1).

We have been advocating for this at the Schlechty Center for many years. Everything we do has student engagement at its core. Phil Schlechty has said many times that learning begins with a product or problem about which the student cares.

To those of you who have worked so hard to advance these very changes, you should feel good that the tide is turning. You are on the right path.

These are the main two conclusions, but the report also examines 18 trends including innovations like collaborative learning approaches, the shift from students as consumers to creators, blended learning, STEAM, 3D printing, and adaptive learning.

The report also addresses challenges to making the changes that are trending. Some challenges are solvable and others are quite "wicked." For example, one solvable challenge is the way we do professional development. In the area of technology integration, we must shift from PD sessions where teachers "sit and get" to a very active, participatory, collaborative, engaged design similar to what we expect teachers to facilitate for their students.

NMC reports that scaling innovative classroom designs is a "wicked" challenge. We agree. With years of prescriptive teaching models as the dominant classroom pedagogy, shifting to a design model where teachers create original customized work that meets the needs, motives, and values of their students (i.e., engages them) is a disruptive innovation. But to be sure, it is happening. To see examples in action, visit the Quest to Learn website or the High Tech High website and see what is going on.

The report sees BYOD and makerspace innovations as being increasingly on the rise. We have blogged about the maker movement, and its inclusion in this report is excellent. Product Focus is at the heart of the maker movement.

How can we use this report?

NMC clearly states, "Education leaders worldwide look to the NMC Horizon Project and both its global and regional reports as key strategic technology planning references, and it is for that purpose that the NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition is presented" (page 1). In short, this report can be a great reference point for educators seeking to implement change that supports engagement and technology integration.

Are there some follow-up questions for educators to discuss?

We think so:

How do the findings in the report align with your classroom pedagogy?
What roadblocks prevent you or your district from moving forward to address engagement?
Does this report cause you to celebrate or does it cause concern about the future for your students?
What capacity building do you need to do in order to create a core business of engagement?
How would you answer the guiding questions in paragraph one of the report (page 1)?

Here is a possible PD activity using this report:

  • Divide the 20 different "big ideas" in the report (two conclusions and 18 trends) among members of a study group, participants in a faculty meeting, attendees at a PD session, etc. (If you have less than 20 people, have each person pick one idea of interest. Large groups will have multiple people on each idea.)
  • Study the big ideas with these guiding questions:
    • How does this relate to engagement?
    • What Design Qualities does it leverage?
    • Can it be utilized in a design environment or is it a rigid program?
    • Why would you advocate (or not advocate) for this idea as a positive addition to a teacher's design toolbox?
    • What capacity issues does this idea present for you?
  • Have each participant prepare a digital presentation that answers the guiding questions using a digital tool new to them (or not new to them).
  • Divide participants in half. Spread Group A out around the room with their presentations (computers) in hand. In five-minute bursts (we call this Speed Sharing), allow Group B to visit three to five different presentations, depending on time. When finished, swap roles so Group B presents and Group A visits.

You may just cultivate some trailblazers to lead you forward!

As always, we welcome your comments and discussion below.

The Engagement People